Any new developments in the ongoing negotiations between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on the decades-old dispute over the latter’s name are postponed until the beginning of May, following a meeting between the respective foreign ministers in Ohrid on Thursday, according to diplomatic sources.
Although progress has been made on both sides, there are still several thorny issues which remain unresolved because conditions have not matured, the sources said.
The next two meetings between Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and his FYROM counterpart Nikola Dimitrov will be held on May 3-4, at Thessaloniki's quadrilateral cross-border meeting between Greece, Bulgaria, FYROM and Albania, and on May 11-12 in Sounio, at a meeting of the foreign ministers of Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, the Visegrad countries and the Western Balkans.
The joint statements made on Thursday by Kotzias and Dimitrov after their meeting reflected both the good climate and the recognition of the distance that still exists between the two sides over the difficult issues.
“The closer we get [to] resolving all of our issues, fewer and fewer issues are left to discuss. But they are also the most difficult issues,” Kotzias told journalists. “We took the positive steps we could take today, and both of us hope we will also succeed in taking the major steps – in making the most difficult ones easy.”
In the same spirit, Dimitrov said “progress has been made on some issues, because they are ready for discussion, and there are some issues on which there are still some differences.” He said talks were “frank” with “great understanding of the needs of each other,” adding that the challenge is to reach a possible agreement. The two sides also worked on a text to prevent irredentism from all sides, he added.
Kotzias and Dimitrov are scheduled to brief their respective prime ministers who, although they are not directly involved in the diplomatic process, have an active role in the efforts to achieve a deal on the name row.
As to the substance of the negotiations, the scope of use of the new name, which will likely be “Gorna Makedonija” (Upper Macedonia), remains difficult to resolve, as FYROM insists the Greek demand for “erga omnes” does not respect the identity of the Slav-Macedonian inhabitants of the neighboring country. FYROM’s leadership hesitates to change the domestic documents and trade names referring to the “Macedonian” identity of the people of FYROM.
Concerning the parliamentary balance in FYROM, the fact that Prime Minister Zoran Zaev’s government survived this week a vote of no confidence that was requested by the main opposition party MRO-DPMNE is a rather positive sign as to the chances his government had to proceed with a constitutional revision.